Mediclinic understands that all the uncertainty around COVID-19 has obviously caused concern among pregnant women and those with young babies. Below, we aim to answer some of the most common questions concerning COVID-19 and pregnant women and their families.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pregnancy, Birth and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
The virus is carried by droplets which are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be passed on if you touch a surface which has been contaminated by an infected person. The most effective way of protecting yourself against catching this virus is by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water; not touching your face; avoiding groups of people; and, keeping a distance of 1.5 metres or more between yourself and others. Building up your immune system by eating well and getting enough rest is important in any pregnancy.
In general, pregnant women are more susceptible to infections than women who are not pregnant. While there is still much to learn about this new virus, there is currently no evidence to suggest that pregnant women are at higher risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus than the general population.
For pregnant women who are infected with the coronavirus, it seems that there is no increased risk of miscarriage or having a baby with abnormalities. There have been some reported cases of vertical transmission – the virus passes from mom to her foetus in utero, but it remains extremely rare. In addition the newborn does not appear to be particularly sick if they do become infected. While there may be a higher risk of your baby being born prematurely, the research on this is not yet conclusive.
Yes. There is currently no evidence that the virus can be passed on through breastmilk. However, since the virus is passed on through respiratory droplets, it is important that you wash your hands before breastfeeding, and you should wear a cloth mask whilst feeding your baby. If you do not have your cloth mask on, and handle your baby, and you are coughing or sneezing, cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow sleeve, followed by immediate handwashing. If you are using a breast pump to express breast milk, make sure that you wash your hands before touching the pump or the bottles and that you sterilise the bottles and pump after use. Where possible, use a dedicated breast pump if you are expressing breast milk in hospital.
Personal hygiene, especially handwashing is the most effective way of preventing infection. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol gel where there is no soap and water. Try to ensure that there is always 1.5m of physical distance between you and the next person to avoid breathing in any respiratory droplets that are expelled through coughing or sneezing. Try to avoid closed or crowded spaces where there is limited airflow. Drinking enough fluids, eating a healthy diet and getting enough rest will aid your immunity against infection.
If you think you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or suspect that you may have it, because you've developed symptoms, it is important that you do not simply visit your doctor’s rooms as this may spread the infection. Rather call your doctor or the Mediclinic COVID-19 hotline on 0860 24 00 24 and discuss your symptoms and concerns. They will provide advice on whether you should be tested or assessed by your doctor. You should also self-isolate for 14 days or until the results are confirmed.
Tests for pregnant women are the same as for any other person. Currently, the test for the coronavirus involves swabs that are taken from your mouth and nose. If you are coughing, sputum may also be requested.
If your symptoms are mild, you will be advised to stay at home to recover. If your symptoms are severe, you may have to be treated in hospital.
You should avoid contact with others for 14 days. Self-isolation includes:
· Not leaving your home.
· Ensuring that there is good airflow in your room.
· Separating yourself from other members of your household.
· Using separate crockery, cutlery, towels etc. to other members of your household.
· Eating at different times from others in the household.
· Trying to avoid the need for others to be in your room.
· Keeping active by exercising in your room.
To avoid the risk of infecting others, it is not advisable to visit your doctor or health facility unless it is clinically necessary: you should rather call your doctor or health facility for advice. If you are advised to go to hospital, then you should inform the hospital prior to admission that you have tested positive for the virus or suspect that you may be infected with the virus while pregnant. If you are concerned about your unborn baby or your health please do not delay in seeking medical attention.
Once you have informed your doctor and health facility of your suspected or confirmed infection, you will be advised how to come to the unit, and your baby will be monitored regularly. Since these monitors are only available in an obstetric unit in a hospital, homebirths or births where only a midwife is present, are not advised.
Your coronavirus status should not affect how you give birth, so you should stick to your birth plan as far as possible. A caesarean section may be necessary if you develop respiratory complications from the infection. Options for pain relief will be discussed with you early on during labour. Currently, there is no evidence against using methods such as epidurals or spinal blocks to relieve pain.
You should call your doctor and the Mediclinic hospital where you have booked to inform them that you have a suspected or confirmed case of the coronavirus and have gone into labour. They will provide advice on how to proceed.
To ensure that your unborn baby is well, you will most probably have an ultrasound scan two weeks after your recovery. Once you have recovered from the coronavirus infection, when and how you give birth will not be affected by your previous illness.
The evidence is changing daily and your paediatrician will discuss this with you at the time.
If your baby is well and doesn’t require neonatal care, then it is extremely likely that your baby will be handed to you after giving birth and will be able to stay with you while you’re in hospital. Your doctor or health care worker should discuss with you the risks and benefits associated with this.
If you feel you or a family member may have COVID-19 disease we recommend that you complete our online assessment for testing.
If you are booked for an elective caesarean section or induction you will be required to take a COVID-19 test about 48 hours prior to admission. If you come in at any other point in your pregnancy you will be tested on admission. Your doctor will explain the procedure to follow.
If, after completing the online assessment, it is indicated that you or a family member need to do a test for COVID-19 then DO NOT arrive at a medical facility unannounced. Rather phone your GP or phone your nearest Mediclinic hospital. It is important to phone in advance so you can find out more information about screening protocols, as facilities are managing testing in different ways. You may be asked to wait in your car for the screening to take place instead of walking inside the waiting room where you may unintentionally expose others. You make be asked to put on a mask when you enter the healthcare facility.
If you have been exposed to someone who has had a confirmed positive test result for COVID-19, then you are advised to start to self-isolate for two weeks as a protective measure for others. Arrange for friends or family to supply your necessities without coming in to contact with them. If you develop any respiratory symptoms, we recommend you complete our online assessment for testing to share with your GP or nearest Mediclinic facility.
Limiting the spread of Coronavirus infection and transmission requires the collective effort of everyone in a community.
Mediclinic recommends the following during lockdown:
- Wear a cloth mask when in public
- Avoid visiting hospitals unnecessarily.
- Avoid unnecessary visits to the Emergency Centre.
- When shopping for food or medicine stay at least 1.5m away from everyone.
- Do online shopping or visit the grocery store less frequently and at quieter times.
- Practise good hand hygiene often. Good handwashing is as effective as alcohol hand rub sanitiser.
- Use hand sanitiser when unable to wash with soap and water.
- Take reasonable precautions to protect your health and those of others.
- Work from home if possible and schedule online meetings instead of face-to-face.
- Sneeze and cough into a tissue or the crook of your elbow.
There is more scientific evidence becoming available that pregnant women are more prone to severe symptoms than non-pregnant patients of the same age groups. This is especially true for patients with other co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension and those with a high body mass index (BMI). For your own protection it is therefore important to protect yourselves from getting infected by diligently following all preventative measures like social distancing, mask wearing andhand washing.